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Ideally, the insurance industry reacts to actual social needs. If there is a risk that has become pervasive in society, then there should be an insurance product that offers protection against that risk. Flood, fire, theft. All genuine risks. All subject to amelioration through the tried and tested means of insurance. Or consider a more recent risk - cyber-theft; a subject we have discussed in many contexts in this blog. The insurance industry is engaged in a furious effort to analyze, quantify, and develop customer-friendly products to protect against this emerging risk.

But what are we to think of an entirely new risk identified in China and the subject of a new insurance product there? There have been a number of reported cases in China in recent years in which kind-hearted persons have gone to the aid of other (often elderly) persons who are showing signs of distress or injury in a public place. The generous by-stander helps the injured person to his feet and perhaps offers a ride home or to a hospital. In return, the Good Samaritan finds himself the subject of a fraudulent lawsuit claiming that that he either caused or exacerbated the injury. 

For example, in 2013, a woman in Liaoning Province named Wang Lan came across an elderly woman at a bus stop who appeared injured. Ms. Wang accompanied the elderly woman to the hospital and even paid her admission fee of about $30, but later found herself the defendant in a lawsuit by the elderly woman claiming that Ms. Wang had knocked her down and caused her injuries. In another case from 2009, a man was ordered by the court to pay damages of 100,000 yuan (about $15,740) to an elderly person that he assisted, on the (questionable) grounds that he would not have offered help if he had not been responsible for the injury in the first place. This kind of thing happens periodically in China, and the press has made a big enough deal out of such cases that a number of local governments, including the cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou, are considering enactment of Good Samaritan laws to protect against such fraudulent claims and to encourage citizens to offer assistance where needed.

In the absence of a national Good Samaritan law, the Chinese insurance industry has stepped into the breach with a limited product to deal with this issue. Interestingly, the insurance product - called "Helping Elderly Insurance" - is offered by a subsidiary of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., the giant Chinese internet provider of all sorts of consumer products (analogous to Amazon in the U.S., but even bigger and more pervasive). For a premium as low as 3 yuan (about $0.47), per year an anxious potential Good Samaritan can purchase coverage of up to 20,000 yuan (about $3,148) in legal expenses. The insurer, Sinosafe General Insurance Co. Ltd., will investigate claims to confirm the legitimacy of the legal expenses before making payments. The product has only been available since October 15 of this year, and has so far attracted about 26,000 customers.

You be the judge of whether insurance is an appropriate response to the apparent lack of social trust and the fear of "victim" extortion that seems to have taken hold in China. We here a Pfeifer Insurance Brokers continue to encourage Good Samaritans to just do their thing.

For all of your insurance needs - life, home, auto, fire, flood, commercial - contact Pfeifer Insurance Brokers for prompt, courteous and knowledgable assistance.

Alex Pfeifer
Pfeifer Insurance Brokers
650 762-8087
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